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Classic "capitalist realist" drama showing the manufacture of Chevrolets from foundry to finished vehicles. Though ostensibly a tribute to the "master hands" of the assembly line workers, it seems more of a paean to the designers of this impressive mass production system. Filmed in Flint, Michigan, just months before the United Auto Workers won union recognition with their famous sitdown strikes. Released the same year as two other films with which it shares similarities: MODERN TIMES and TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. Selected for the 1999 National Film Registry of "artistically, culturally, and socially significant" films.
This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives
Producer: Handy (Jam) Organization
Sponsor: Chevrolet Motor Company
Audio/Visual: Sd, B&W
Keywords: Automobiles: Manufacturing; Labor: 1930s; Occupations: Automotive
Creative Commons license: Public Domain
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Subject: Realistic events
Very interesting film. It's realistic events of that time are shown. Many things were are taken from museum Chevrolet. Modern children can't understand some things, but older persons look a film with nostalgia.
Subject: Watch your fingers!
A must see for the auto enthusiast. Film starts with firing up the boilers and generators, and production is under way. Excellent footage of engine block casting. Very interesting crankshaft forging footage. Those things were very hot, and heavy too. Great body panel and fender stamping. A frame line was extensively showcased, and cutting edge technology it was! Get a load of the guys standing between those riveting machine heads! Yikes! And yes, I too wanted to see some body line footage, oops. Great stuff from beginning to end showing massive stamping presses and the power of our heavy manufacturing. A few years after this was filmed, the Chrysler Lynch Rd plant reached a production rate of one car per minute! A fantastic showcase showing Detroit as it starts to hit full modern stride!
Subject: Off The Production Line We Go!
Excellent montage documentary which essentially builds an automobile from scratch. We watch, as the Detroit Philharmonic plays (excellent music I might add) as it starts from the foundry, pounding out metal for the cars, to screwing on nuts, to fitting everything in place. It's also an awesome showcase of the production line, and how mind-numbing it all must have been. While I was watching this, I felt SOMEWHAT gypped that I didn't see ALL the production happen, like the main cabin of the car floats out of nowhere onto the chassis. Like, where was the production of that? That's a minor point though. See this. It's Important. A Must See on this site!
Christine Hennig -
Subject: Master Hands (Full Film)
This film, made by Chevrolet in the mid 1930's, purports to be a salute to the workers in the Chevrolet plants, but it really seems to be a salute to heavy industry in general. The process of making a car is shown from start to finish, to the tune of a majestic soundtrack based on Wagner. Prelinger calls this sort of film "capitalist realism", a play on "socialist realism" which was mandatory in the Soviet Union at the time. It's a very apt label here, as this could have just as easily been made in the Soviet Union. It's an amazing work of modern art that the Futurists would have been proud of. The machines are the art, which is a modernist ideal. Some scenes don't look so much like manufacturing as dance, a bizarre dance of men and machine together. The workers don't look so much like people as part of the machines they're operating. You are impressed by their skill, though, and how hard and dangerous the work looks. These guys really earned their paychecks! The big question I have, though, is this: Were the opening and closing credits really made as bronze plaques as they appear to be? If so, do those plaques still exist today? I want the one that says "The End".
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****. Also available on Our Secret Century, Vol. 2: Capitalist Realism.
Subject: Review of Master Hands
I really enjoyed this series of 4 movies.
The first 3 were DIVX (quick to download), last was QuickTime(big and slow, but better visual quality).
I am 54 yr old engineer interested in early technology applications.
Most interesting was free sand-casting sequence, manual cleaning and grinding of the resulting castings, as well as hand-held lighting of the big furnaces. A second interesting sequence in film 4 was the HUGE sequential processing line wherein long throw machining equipments approached and processed each passing car chassis. This gave me an appreciation of the personal hazards involved in work on the early assembly lines.
I would place this group of movies up near my favorite which is "Your Town: A Story of America 1940 ( 35976.avi )"